Top Forty Influencing Canadian Foreign Policy

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NAFTA players top Canada’s 40 most-influential foreign-policy minds

Insiders and observers weigh in on who impacts Canada’s decisions on diplomacy, trade, defence, development, and immigration.
As NAFTA dominates Canada’s foreign policy, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, right, and Chrystia Freeland, left, are No. 1 and 2 on The Hill Times’ Top 40 Foreign Policy Influencer list. They’re seen walking to the National Press Theatre on May 31 to announce retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods. The Hill Times photograph by Andrew Meade

When it comes to who is influencing Canadian foreign policy, there’s the people working on files related to the United States, and then there’s everyone else.

The constant focus of Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government on renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement with an adversarial United States President Donald Trump has necessarily sucked resources and attention, including the near total focus of Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland.

Though The Hill Times set out to list the top minds shaping Canada’s foreign policy, those working on relations with the United States emerged as the most important players, with other influencers on the outskirts.

Past lists have stacked 80 influencers but we’ve halved that number after hearing from insiders who questioned how much the government follows talking heads, and the extent to which even those in government affect policy in what is repeatedly described as a “PMO-driven” approach.

Some in the centre, the Prime Minister’s Office, don’t have a particular affinity for foreign affairs, but their impact is central nonetheless on policy, which critics say too often is formed with domestic affairs in mind.

While the United States and officials working on relations with it have always enjoyed outsized importance in Canada, key players in the ongoing NAFTA renegotiation were among the most common who came up as influencers in our discussions.

Through more than two-dozen interviews with insiders, policy analysts, former diplomats, and senior government officials, The Hill Times developed this list of the top 40 people influencing Canadian foreign policy. Though the formula for making the list is unscientific, actors earned their spot based on access to power, demonstrated ability to effect change, experience—or simply because they’re in a powerful job. And, because those who offered insight were often working in or closely with the government and spoke frankly, their names are not cited.

Many ministers earned mention, and a few just barely missed the mark, including Marc Garneau, who chairs the cabinet committee Canada-U.S. relations and trade, and Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, a trade lawyer who’s one of this government’s more visible in cabinet. We could have easily mentioned retiring G7 sherpa Peter Boehm, who was lauded as one of the last true foreign service officers to rise through the ranks to the level of deputy minister.

New Democrats are absent from the list, following feedback from sources who questioned whether the party should crack even the top 40, with one source suggesting the New Democrats don’t have the same influence as when former foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar or defence critic Jack Harris were in the House.

Still, a couple government officials said outgoing MP Hélène Laverdière, the NDP foreign affairs critic, deserves mention for her thoughtful, results-focused approach to issues even while criticizing the Liberals. Another progressive voice, Alex Neve, who heads the English section of Amnesty International Canada, was mentioned as raising the human rights group’s profile with the Liberals compared to the ostracism it faced under the Conservatives. Mr. Neve and Ms. Laverdière have both had strong voices, applying pressure on the Trudeau Liberals’ relationship with Saudi Arabia.

For this year’s list, we’re offering a clear top five (in four spots) and the rest are broken down by category.

Top players

1. Justin Trudeau, prime minister

Canada’s top federal politician will always count, but this celebrity PM makes an extra splash during trips abroad. With eyes on the south, Mr. Trudeau has taken up a sort of anti-Trump persona domestically and internationally, with much of his work on bilateral relations walking that fine line of sticking up for Canada while ensuring sensitive talks on issues like NAFTA can continue. In June, Canada hosted the G7 summit in Quebec amid heightened trade rhetoric and insults Mr. Trump tossed at Mr. Trudeau on his way out of Canada. Mr. Trudeau’s tough response helped him gain in public opinion polls, but he’s not always hit the mark on foreign policy. Some of the PM’s high-profile trips over the last year, including to India and China, have been notable for producing gaffes, and showing a lack of on-the-ground research. While Mr. Trudeau lets Ms. Freeland take the lead, in a government that determines its foreign policy at the centre, he’s the centre of it all.

2. Chrystia Freeland, foreign affairs minister

In many eyes, Ms. Freeland could just as easily take top spot because her role is so important. As foreign affairs minister, said one former diplomat, she’s the “most effective since Lloyd Axworthy,” who literally wrote the book on Canada’s place globally and served in the cabinets of three prime ministers. Her tenure has been shaped by two blockbuster speeches—in Parliament and in Washington accepting Foreign Policymagazine’s prestigious Diplomat of the Year Award—denouncing populism and a decline in internationalism. Though she can be a bit of a lone wolf, one source observed, the former journalist hand-selected her advisers and enjoys the complete trust of the PMO. And, after the India debacle, she has a “sort of carte blanche,” in her file though she plays to the PMO.

3. Gerald Butts, principal secretary to the prime minister

Mr. Trudeau’s principal secretary and longtime friend is always mentioned in the same breath as chief of staff Katie Telford, making them a clear tie for third. The two don’t have a specific official role on foreign policy, but all decisions go through them. When asked to separate their roles on foreign matters, sources are hard-pressed to offer much distinction, though they say Mr. Butts is more policy-minded and is more concerned about environmental issues (he’s the former head of World Wildlife Fund Canada). So tight is their connection to Mr. Trudeau, one described it as a “three-legged race.”

3. Katie Telford, chief of staff to the prime minister

As with her counterpart Mr. Butts, Ms. Telford is “critical on every file,” whether it’s trade, defence, or visits abroad. While the two are “pretty evenly balanced,” she seems to take more interest in the government’s feminist foreign aid policy, diversity, gender equality, and human rights, insiders said. Ms. Telford runs the daily operations in the PMO, having been one of Mr. Trudeau’s top advisers since before the Liberals took government, running his leadership bid back in 2013.

4. David MacNaughton, Canadian ambassador to the United States

Mr. MacNaughton has a level of influence not experienced by anyone in his post previously. He serves in a ministerial capacity, and has a home in the inner circle. He was described by one source as having more power than any minister in cabinet other than Ms. Freeland. He has the complete trust of the PMO, particularly with Mr. Butts and Ms. Telford. The trio were key players in the Liberals’ 2015 federal campaign (Mr. MacNaughton was the Ontario co-chair) and their connection goes back to Queen’s Park a decade ago working for then-Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty. Mr. MacNaughton launched and led StrategyCorp, a government relations firm where Ms. Telford also worked. He’s adept at building connections—an essential component in Washington during delicate NAFTA negotiations—but he reaches the realm of senior adviser on other issues.


Ralph Goodale, public safety minister

First elected in 1974 when Pierre Elliott Trudeau was prime minister, Mr. Goodale, who first held a cabinet post in 1993, has been described as having an “incredibly important and valuable” role in the Trudeau government and has been called “the adult in the room.” A former diplomat said he was the “shrewdest and most senior” within cabinet. Some rank Mr. Goodale as the third most important minister after Ms. Freeland and new Trade Minister Jim Carr. He is important in Canada’s national security and on border issues, responsible for intelligence agencies, and sits on both foreign policy-focused cabinet committees. He is in constant contact with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Ahmed Hussen, immigration minister

A passionate advocate with a “business-minded” approach, the immigration minister has emerged as a strong voice at cabinet, sources said. His portfolio matters too, with the Liberals promising to increase the number of newcomers to 340,000 by 2020. His background, having fled war-torn Somalia to come to Canada, also informs some of his work and support for “causes that he believed in intensely.” He’s done a lot of work in Africa, and was also praised for playing a part in the July 2018 international rescue operation of White Helmet first responders in Syria, which meant “critical coordination” between Global Affairs Canada and his department.

Jim Carr, international trade diversification minister

Though just a few months into this more globally-minded post, he is said to be among the stronger in cabinet and was a key voice lobbying for “diversification” to be added to his ministerial title. That goal of drumming up more trade outside the U.S. is now the “Holy Grail” for this government, as it remains mired in NAFTA confusion. Several observers said the level of the former natural resource minister’s influence is yet to be determined above that of the institutional importance of the post, but it is likely to increase. He is the “pinnacle of a respected voice,” said one senior official, describing Mr. Carr as collegial and a bridge-builder.

Marie-Claude Bibeau, international development minister  

Ms. Bibeau, who has served in the role since the start of the 42nd Parliament, is one of the ministers on the list with less influence. She serves on the Canada in the World and Public Security cabinet committee. She has an important voice in the room due to her position, but it is not a dominant one compared to some of her cabinet colleagues. She is in charge of quarterbacking the government’s feminist foreign aid policy.

Harjit Sajjan, defence minister

While the defence minister is a position that should always be on the list, there was clear disagreement among the 20-plus sources surveyed about Mr. Sajjan’s inclusion. Some said the veteran of the Afghanistan war had to be included, while others questioned his influence, seeing him staying in the background. He has a habit of sticking his foot in his mouth, including by claiming he was the “architect” of a big combat mission in Afghanistan, when he wasn’t. The defence minister’s position typically is one of great influence with its close co-operation with Washington and NATO, especially with Canadian soldiers currently deployed in the United Nations’ peacekeeping mission in Mali. One source said, in theory, he has importance, but he doesn’t drive policy in the same way that Ms. Freeland and Mr. Carr do. Some suggested that Zita Astravas, Mr. Sajjan’s chief of staff and a former senior PMO staffer, has more influence than he does. But others pushed back on that idea.

Erin O’Toole, Conservative foreign affairs critic

There was contentious debate over which member of the official opposition should be in the mix, if at all. Some said if a Tory MP were to be included, it should be the leader, Andrew Scheer who is set to make a bigger international splash with his eight-day trip to India next month, but others saw foreign policy as a platform gap, and not an issue he’s spent much time on. Many of the Conservative statements about foreign policy don’t come from the leader, but from Mr. O’Toole. One source said Mr. O’Toole hasn’t made the international connections as Ms. Freeland did as a backbencher in a third party during the 41st Parliament. He’s the Conservatives’ loudest foreign policy voice, but the former air force captain has not been as effective as he could be.

Political staffers

Brian Clow, PMO director of Canada-U.S. relations

Inside the PMO’s Canada-U.S. war room, Mr. Clow monitors Canada’s relationship with the United States around the clock. Since the government is so focused on dealing with its southern neighbour, Mr. Clow has added importance. He is charged with the political strategy behind the NAFTA renegotiations, and along with Ms. Freeland, he is key to shaping the negotiations politically. He previously served as her chief of staff when she was the trade minister. Mr. Clow serves as an important link between Global Affairs and the PMO. He also monitors Canada’s “charm offensive” in the United States. Some say he has more influence than Ms. Freeland’s chief of staff Jeremy Broadhurst and PMO policy adviser Patrick Travers, but less than Mr. MacNaughton.

Jeremy Broadhurst, chief of staff to the foreign minister

As Ms. Freeland’s right-hand man, he’s often by her side on the many trips to the United States and abroad. He has her confidence and is part of the inner circle in the PMO, having worked as deputy chief of staff and principal secretary in the PMO before he moved to his current role in January 2017. He has “outsized influence,” given that connection to Mr. Butts, Mr. Trudeau, and Ms. Telford. He brings a lot of institutional knowledge on foreign affairs to debates, one source observed. That comes from his background working under Liberal leaders Bill Graham, who served as foreign affairs and defence minister, Stéphane Dion, and Michael Ignatieff.

Laurence Deschamps-Laporte, policy director for the foreign minister

Ms. Deschamps-Laporte took on her post in January 2018 and has impressed observers with her depth of knowledge, described by one as “brilliant.” She’s a former Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford, a distinction she shares with her boss. Originally from Repentigny, Que., she studied international development and modern Middle Eastern studies and can speak French, English, Spanish, German, and Arabic. She’s helping push the feminist foreign policy approach within the office, but in the heat of NAFTA she does the hard work of keeping Ms. Freeland briefed on everything, including working at the core on security files. She’s “emerged as a really critical voice at the staff level on everything,” said one senior government official.

Zita Astravas, chief of staff to the defence minister

The issues-management specialist moved to Mr. Sajjan’s office from the Prime Minister’s Office in August 2017, in the midst of backlash surrounding the minister’s claim her was an “architect” of Operation Medusa in Afghanistan. Sources said she’s strong, effective, and a “crucial” staffer who enjoys the PMO’s trust, but doesn’t necessarily play into the policy side of things. A couple sources said she’s more influential than Mr. Sajjan, while others pushed back on that assessment. A former Queen’s Park staffer, she recently took an unpaid leave of absence to join the Ontario Liberal campaign war room, and has worked in three previous Ontario provincial elections in various tour- and communications-related roles.

Julian Ovens, chief of staff to the trade minister

A former chief of staff to Stéphane Dion when he was foreign affairs minister, Mr. Ovens still has an influential role stickhandling Mr. Carr’s office. Mr. Ovens comes from the mining industry, having spent more than 10 years at BHP Billiton and Alcan (later bought by Rio Tinto), which makes him a natural fit with his new boss, who was the previous natural resources minister. He was appointed chief of staff to Mr. Dion in 2015 and took the same role in the international trade minister’s office when François-Philippe Champagne had the post.

Patrick Travers, PMO global affairs policy adviser

With the “whole world on his plate,” Mr. Travers joined the PMO in January 2016 from his job as senior policy adviser at the United Nations. He’s considered a sharp guy, who’s at all the meetings with Mr. Trudeau when discussing global affairs, but many questioned the degree of his influence given that he’s not a member of the senior PMO staff. While his files touch everything, insiders say he doesn’t have a key role on NAFTA, nor is he in charge of international development, or gender issues. He’s the key contact point in the PMO on international affairs for liaising with all the ministers’ offices and is good at listening and asking what the office is missing. That said, he does offer recommendations, one source noted, on policy that makes it before the PM, and that holds weight. He was also key in co-ordinating the G7 summit in Quebec in June.

Civil servants and military

John Hannaford, foreign and defence policy adviser to the prime minister, Privy Council Office

Mr. Hannaford was the first civil servant who briefed Mr. Trudeau on election night, and sources say that close connection has continued throughout the Liberal mandate. He’s considered the “focal” person at the apex of the civil service, above even the Privy Council clerk, and crucial for his advice on all things foreign policy. Even more important, he’s trusted by and “enjoys the full confidence” of the those in the Prime Minister’s Office. He’s a constant on key trips, travelling with the prime minister. He’s a very capable, highly regarded officer who has a legal background, working in both the human rights and trade divisions of the foreign ministry. He also held a high-profile, trusted position under the Conservative government after returning from his post in 2012 as ambassador to Norway.

Steve Verheul, chief NAFTA negotiator

Canada’s chief NAFTA negotiator has had a busy summer as he tries to reach a renegotiated NAFTA with the United States and Mexico. Mr. Verheul was the chief negotiator on the CETA trade pact with the European Union, where he developed close ties with then-trade minister Ms. Freeland. He has been called the “best of the best” under tough circumstances. He has more influence than his boss, Timothy Sargent, just behind Ms. Freeland and Mr. MacNaughton. Mr. Verheul, described as a calm voice who uses logic and comes up with solutions in a highly charged and unpredictable atmosphere, is behind the policy and substance of NAFTA. One source called him “one of the most important minds and operators” behind trade policy of his generation.

Michael Wernick, clerk of the Privy Council and secretary to the cabinet

Canada’s highest public servant is a post that will always hold weight on foreign affairs, but insiders say Mr. Wernick is a good delegator who knows what’s going on but trusts other officials to take the lead. He doesn’t micromanage, and chooses his moments to offer insight from his vantage point of institutional importance, but lets Mr. Hannaford remain the focal point for the PMO. Nevertheless, he’s a very influential person who’s been in the role since almost the start of the Liberal government’s mandate. The 37-year public servant was deputy clerk of the Privy Council and associate secretary to cabinet in the Conservative government’s final years.

Timothy Sargent, deputy minister for international trade

While Mr. Verheul has been described as more influential, his boss Mr. Sargent is considered “brilliant” and “creative.” He is an adviser on all things relating to trade, who is confident enough to let his own people and trade advisers offer substantial input. Mr. Sargent is relatively new to the trade file, starting the job in October 2016, after being an associate deputy minister at Finance Canada, and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. He has a history of leveraging expertise while inputting his own judgment in his dealings with ministers. Mr. Sargent is less of a player at the prime ministerial table than others.

Ian Shugart, deputy minister of foreign affairs

His importance is tied to his post as someone Ms. Freeland relies upon. Like Mr. Sargent, he is very involved, though not one to elbow his way into things. He doesn’t come from a foreign affairs background, having moved to Global Affairs Canada in May 2016 after serving as deputy minister for Employment and Social Development Canada as well as Environment. But that breadth of understanding is a benefit, one source said, because he can consider domestic aspects and “the impact of foreign policy beyond the bubble of the Pearson Building.” This government has given more voice to the civil service, making Mr. Shugart’s post more powerful than in the past. With so many working and focused on the U.S. frontlines, Mr. Shugart’s eye is on the rest of the world and people listen to him when he speaks.

Greta Bossenmaier, prime minister’s national security and intelligence adviser

A cautious bureaucrat, Ms. Bossenmaier has a powerful role and is seen as a deliberate choice. Before her appointment in May, she earned that trust overseeing Canada’s cyberspy agency, Communications Security Establishment. She doesn’t have the same influence as her predecessor, Daniel Jean, who retired earlier this year after controversy surrounding the PM’s India trip, but most sources say it’s too early to have much of a read on her and the post will always matter. She’s a “very competent administrator,” seen to offer knowledge and insight, but it remains to be seen whether she emerges as an assertive voice that has policy influence. She has a deep background in foreign affairs, having worked in senior roles at the Canada Border Services Agency and in the Privy Council Office’s onetime Afghanistan Task Force.

Jonathan Vance, chief of defence staff

The chief of defence staff of the Canadian Armed Forces always plays an important role in the execution of Canada’s defence policy. Mr. Vance, the commander of Canada’s Afghanistan mission in 2009 and 2010, has been the chief since 2015. He has been described as a “good soldier,” but not seen to have a huge impact shaping policy. On the other hand, one source said inside the Department of National Defence, he and Jody Thomas—DND’s deputy minister—have a significant impact on how defence policy is formulated. On the topic of generals, multiple sources say retired general and now Liberal MP Andrew Leslie, who is the parliamentary secretary for Canada-U.S. relations, has little influence over policy, but is a good communicator and promoter of the government’s policy.

Ailish Campbell, chief trade commissioner

As Canada looks to diversify its trading relationship in light of stalled NAFTA renegotiations, Ms. Campbell is leading the charge. She is actively involved in changing how Canadian export promotion operates. During a time of concern over diminishing foreign investment in Canada, she is charged with growing international capital. Ms. Campbell has developed a deep network, aided by work she did with John Manley, the former deputy prime minister and the president and CEO of the Business Council of Canada. While she is very involved in trade promotion, she may not be as key to crafting trade and foreign policy. One source said she is taking a leadership role in putting the diversification aspect of Canada’s foreign policy into action. Another called her a “force to be reckoned with.”

Diplomats and former politicians

Marc-André Blanchard, permanent representative of Canada to the United Nations

Based in New York where all the world’s top diplomats reside, Mr. Blanchard wields a key position lobbying for Canada’s bid to win a non-permanent United Nations Security Council. His impact is beyond that work, drawing mention for his efforts on the government’s feminist international assistance policy and Canada’s work to stop the persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. He’s at the top tier among political appointees, behind only Mr. MacNaughton in prominence. The lawyer is known as one who develops personal relationships and can bring people together. His relationship with U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley has proven to be important.

John McCallum, ambassador to China

This former six-term MP was named to this job in January 2017. He’s got extra weight because of his political profile, having been a Liberal minister for national defence, veterans affairs, national revenue, and immigration during 16 years in Parliament. He’s well-liked in China and is seen as sympathetic to the Beijing leadership. Some observers questioned whether he missed warning signs during Mr. Trudeau’s December 2017 trip to China, when Canada didn’t advance past exploratory trade talks, but a government source said that result doesn’t diminish the calibre of advice.

Kirsten Hillman, deputy ambassador to the U.S.

When Ms. Freeland was deciding who to lead the NAFTA renegotiations, she had to make a choice between Mr. Verheul and Kirsten Hillman. Instead, Ms. Hillman was tapped for the high-profile deputy ambassador to the U.S. post, where she’s frequently called upon for her depth of trade knowledge. Ms. Hillman was Canada’s chief negotiator in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks. She forms a good partnership with Mr. MacNaughton, with whom she works often on many trade files; together they serve as an important connector for Canada in Washington. While Mr. MacNaughton focuses on the political, she brings her deep knowledge of the technical side of trade. One source called her the “smartest diplomat” Canada has.

Brian Mulroney, Canada’s 18th prime minister

The former Progressive Conservative prime minister has helped the government work a strategy on the United States. Described as a “Trump whisperer,” he’s known for his friendship with longtime neighbour Mr. Trump, in Palm Beach, Fla. Both publicly and privately, people listen to what he says and he’s among those who are on the regular call list for all things NAFTA. At the outset, the government engaged him in its charm offensive. But that influence isn’t the same as in the beginning, described as “way down” by one former diplomat, who said that Mr. Mulroney’s advice to flatter the mercurial president “was harmful” and didn’t get Canada ahead.

Irwin Cotler, chair of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights

The former Liberal justice minister is held in high esteem and is consulted on human rights matters. His efforts were especially evident in pushing the government to pass Bill S-226,  the Sergei Magnitsky Act, which sailed through the House of Commons unanimously in October 2017. He’s someone who has an audience and is held in high regard (one source called him a “national treasure”) as a 16-year MP. He and Bob Rae represent an important historical voice in the Liberal Party that speaks to human rights, which the government listens to. Former Liberal cabinet ministers Lloyd Axworthy and Allan Rock have also earned mention as “heavyweights,” but mostly for their work on refugee issues with the government.

Rona Ambrose, former Conservative interim leader

Though she didn’t play on the same team as the Liberals while in Parliament, Ms. Ambrose is a member of the government’s NAFTA advisory council along with fellow former Tory minister James Moore, who was also frequently mentioned as an influential and co-operative Conservative, but she eked out a slight advantage. One source called her “very influential” on NAFTA. She appears to have more influence than her former boss, ex-prime minister Stephen Harper. Some observers suggested if he had any influence it was through the media, as he does not have a close relationship with Mr. Trudeau, like fellow ex-PM Brian Mulroney does.

Kelly Craft, U.S. ambassador to Canada

Whether to put Mr. Trump’s envoy to Canada on this list led to some heated debate, in some cases provoking laughter at the idea. Several sources said it’d be the first time they would advocate to keep the U.S. ambassador off the list—her critics say the U.S. now has reduced presence in Ottawa. But, observers have a tendency to underrate her importance, a well-placed source suggested. She’s “incredibly well plugged-in,” is present at key meetings, and has offered high-ranking introductions and access to officials. She facilitated Mr. Garneau’s Kentucky Derby visit with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and the first meeting between Ms. Freeland and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. She’s also formed a tight relationship with her Canadian counterpart, Mr. MacNaughton.

Business and labour reps, academics, and others

Dominic Barton, incoming chairman of Teck Resources

Chair of the finance minister’s Advisory Council on Economic Growth, Mr. Barton’s voice continues to be sought out by government officials. He’s extremely trusted and held in “high esteem.” He’s a respected business leader known for heading one of the world’s premier managing consulting firm, McKinsey & Company, and as of Oct. 1 is taking over as chairman of mining giant Teck Resources. He “knows China inside out,” and has helped tip opinion on some key economic Asia files, said one insider.

Roland Paris, former foreign policy adviser to the prime minister

Despite having left his primo post to return to academia six months after the Liberals swept into power, two years later his name still holds weight. Among academics, his is “the name du jour,” said a former diplomat, an insight in line with the following observation: “When people think Canadian foreign policy, people think Roland Paris,” said one. He’s an internationally respected scholar and his fingerprints are “all over” Mr. Trudeau’s founding foreign policy platform. When Mr. Trump was elected, sources said Ms. Telford called Mr. Paris to form a group advising the government on what to do. With his large platform, he’s considered one of the government’s biggest boosters, while some suggested he can serve as an outlet offering tougher talk (like calling the president a “man-child”) without the political cost. On background, sources said it’s not clear why he left the PMO, speculating that Mr. Butts and his team were going in a different direction, more focused on the domestic impact of internationalism. Even so, most sources had the impression that Mr. Paris “still has an inside track” and remains engaged with and can earn attention of top officials.

Linda Hasenfratz, CEO of Linamar

When Justin Trudeau went to Washington in his first visit to Donald Trump’s White House, Linda Hasenfratz was at his side. Ms. Hasenfratz is the co-chair of the Canada-United States Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders, which was formed out of that first meeting to Washington, and is a project spearheaded by Ivanka Trump, Mr. Trump’s daughter and adviser. Linamar is Canada’s second-largest auto parts manufacturing company and is a multi-billion-dollar business. Ms. Hasenfratz sits on the government’s NAFTA advisory council too. She has been described as the government’s “go-to” person on the business side of things.

Derek Burney, former ambassador to the U.S.

As ambassador to Washington during the original NAFTA talks, Mr. Burney is called upon by reporters and the PMO Canada-U.S. war room alike for insight. His name is often mentioned alongside former Progressive Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney, whom he served as chief of staff during the original Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement negotiations. Now a senior strategic adviser at Norton Rose Fulbright, the experienced negotiator is someone the U.S. team in Canada has regular talks with.

Hassan Yussuff, president of the Canadian Labour Congress 

Labour groups have taken on increased influence under the Liberal government. Government officials speak with Mr. Yussuff frequently, including Ms. Freeland, and he was “instrumental” in helping the government on CETA, and getting support from progressive elements. His union represents 3.3 million workers. While Mr. Yussuff’s voice is not as apparent in the public eye, compared to Unifor’s Jerry Dias, he has a post on the government’s NAFTA advisory council—a distinction some sources took care to note. Still, Mr. Dias represents Canada’s largest union in the private sector. Dogged in his work on NAFTA, Mr. Dias often speaks of his direct line to Ms. Freeland and her chief negotiator Mr. Verheul. He’s a loud advocate, “incredibly plugged-in, and a constant “whether you want to deal with him or not,” one official said jokingly.

Stephanie Carvin, assistant professor of international relations, Carleton University

This former national security analyst with the government has become increasingly prominent on social media and is often quoted in news reports and featured on TV panel discussions. She offers a substantive perspective that senior government officials said they listen to in part because she’s “an influence-shaping voice” that has reach. She focuses on domestic and international security, international law, terrorism and technology and has a PhD from the London School of Economics. And, having been in government, she provides a good critical perspective on how it regulates and manages the intelligence sphere, making her among academics who matter.

Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, wife of the prime minister

Though no observers suggested she’s got much of a say on policy, her importance is tied to her position as a member of the inner circle—and as one who’s playing a more a prominent role as Canada’s “First Lady” than past prime ministers’ partners. Several suggested that influence played out poorly during the India trip debacle, given the Trudeau family’s over-the-top dress. The same sources were just as quick to blame Mr. Trudeau and his office’s poor taste, but said her part in that decision shouldn’t be discounted. An advocate for women and girls, Ms. Grégoire Trudeau is also involved with a number of charities, including being a national ambassador for Plan Canada’s “Because I Am A Girl” initiative.

Colin Robertson, former Canadian diplomat

A negotiator on the original Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, Mr. Robertson’s voice still has impact in the foreign policy arena. However, there is some debate as to how much the government values his voice. Mr. Robertson is quoted often and a frequent columnist on NAFTA, which may be where his influence is greater. A former consul general in Los Angeles, as well as head of the advocacy secretariat and minister in Canada’s Washington embassy, he worked in the Canadian foreign service for 33 years. He sits on Mr. Sargent’s NAFTA advisory council. A former ambassador described him as “sensible, informative, versatile, [and] productive.”

The Hill Times

The top 40 influencing Canadian foreign policy 

Key players

1. Justin Trudeau, prime minister

2. Chrystia Freeland, foreign affairs minister

3. Gerald Butts, principal secretary to the prime minister

3. Katie Telford, chief of staff to the prime minister

4. David MacNaughton, Canadian ambassador to the United States


Ralph Goodale, public safety minister

Ahmed Hussen, immigration minister

Jim Carr, international trade diversification minister

Marie-Claude Bibeau, international development minister

Harjit Sajjan, national defence minister

Erin O’Toole, Conservative foreign affairs critic

Political staffers

Brian Clow, PMO director of Canada-U.S. relations

Jeremy Broadhurst, chief of staff to the foreign minister

Laurence Deschamps-Laporte, policy director for the foreign minister

Zita Astravas, chief of staff to the defence minister

Julian Ovens, chief of staff to the trade minister

Patrick Travers, PMO global affairs policy adviser

Civil servants and military personnel

John Hannaford, foreign and defence policy adviser to the prime minister, Privy Council Office

Steve Verheul, chief NAFTA negotiator

Michael Wernick, clerk of the Privy Council and secretary to the cabinet

Timothy Sargent, deputy minister for international trade

Ian Shugart, deputy minister of foreign affairs

Greta Bossenmaier, prime minister’s national security and intelligence adviser

Jonathan Vance, chief of defence staff

Ailish Campbell, chief trade commissioner

Diplomats and former politicians

Marc-André Blanchard, permanent representative of Canada to the United Nations

John McCallum, ambassador to China

Kirsten Hillman, deputy ambassador to the U.S.

Brian Mulroney, Canada’s 18th prime minister

Irwin Cotler, chair of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights

Rona Ambrose, former Conservative interim leader

Kelly Craft, U.S. ambassador to Canada

Business and labour reps, academics, and others

Dominic Barton, incoming chairman of Teck Resources

Roland Paris, former foreign policy adviser to the prime minister

Linda Hasenfratz, CEO of Linamar

Derek Burney, former ambassador to the U.S.

Hassan Yussuff, president of the Canadian Labour Congress

Stephanie Carvin, assistant professor of international relations, Carleton University

Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, wife of the prime minister

Colin Robertson, former Canadian diplomat

NAFTA Deadlines

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September 16, 2018

Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland is facing pressure to return to Washington this week in a bid to conclude a NAFTA deal under a deadline set by the Americans.

Ms. Freeland will be in Ottawa for the resumption of Parliament Monday, where the Liberal government will be defending the view expressed by her and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that no deal is better than a bad deal when it comes to the North American free-trade agreement.

Top-level negotiations could resume as early as Tuesday between Ms. Freeland and her American counterpart, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, a federal government source said. But that has yet to be decided.

 Ms. Freeland and Mr. Lighthizer are expected to talk by telephone Monday to discuss whether she should return to Washington on Tuesday for more negotiations, the source said. Mr. Lighthizer signalled to the Canadians that he would be available if warranted on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday next week.

Several trade experts said she is likely to make the trip given that she is working under a tight timeline to reach a deal that would prevent the United States and Mexico from moving forward with a bilateral agreement as U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened.

Mexico wants an agreement concluded before incoming president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador takes office on Dec. 1, and the U.S. administration must give Congress 60 days’ notice for a final text, meaning a Sept. 30 deadline. As well, Mr. Trump is keen to announce a new deal − which he wants renamed as the U.S.-Mexico agreement, or the U.S.-Mexico-Canada accord − prior to the November congressional elections, which are being billed as a referendum on his polarizing tenure in office.

“It’s do or die time for a trilateral deal if the goal is to get it done before Lopez Obrador takes office,” said Maryscott Greenwood, Washington-based chief executive of the Canadian American Business Council.

Ms. Greenwood said Canadian and American negotiators are making slow progress, but added that the United States appears willing to make some compromises. She noted that the U.S. side softened its position in a number of areas to reach an agreement in principle with Mexico late last month.

One veteran trade consultant questioned whether the end-of-month deadline is a real one.

“I think a deal is doable but we don’t have to be rushed,” said Colin Robertson, a former trade negotiator and vice-president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute. He said there is no reason that Mexico’s incoming president, Mr. Lopez Obrador, could not conclude the deal that was reached with his blessing by his predecessor, Enrique Pena Nieto

“We’ve had these false deadlines before and this seems to me to be the weakest of them all,” he said.

Ottawa could disregard the deadline and take time to pursue a more favourable deal, while counting on Congress to block the administration’s effort to exclude Canada from the trade agreement, Mr. Robertson said. Leading members of Congress and the American business community have said that any new trade deal must include Canada, but Mr. Trump is threatening to impose crippling tariffs on the Canadian auto industry if there is no trade deal.

Key stumbling blocks continue to be U.S. demands that Canada provide significantly greater access to its dairy industry and Ottawa’s insistence on maintaining the Chapter 19 dispute-settlement mechanism that gives parties the right to challenge one another’s application of duties and punitive tariffs. There are several other outstanding issues, including the U.S. desire for greater patent protection for a class of drugs known as biologics; Canada’s demand to have access to U.S. government procurement; and an American push to increase the value of purchases that Canadian shoppers can bring back duty free from the United States.

While Mr. Trump would clearly like to tout his success in renegotiating NAFTA for the mid-term election campaign, he will need Congressional approval to pass it into law. He already faces resistance there, but it will be far tougher for him if the Democrats win control of the House of Representatives as many pollsters and pundits now forecast, said Dan Ujczo, an Ohio-based international trade lawyer who has worked for the Canadian and U.S. governments and closely monitors the NAFTA talks.

Concluding the negotiations “are the least difficult part of what is left to do to complete a new NAFTA,” Mr. Ujczo said. “Getting this through Congress is going to be twice as hard as it was the first time around back in the 1990s, given the politics of trade in the United States right now.”

But Canada cannot count on Congress turning down a new deal and keeping the old one in place, he added. Instead, the Trump administration would likely abrogate the existing deal at the same time it puts the new one before Congress.

Dairy and the NAFTA Negotiations

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Morning Trade

A daily speed read on global trade news

With help from Megan Cassella

 A PESSIMISTIC VIEW ON CANADA DEAL TIMING FROM UP NORTH: Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat who is vice president at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, told Morning Trade he thinks the negotiations could drag on for weeks because of the difficulty Trudeau faces in reaching a deal on dairy before the Oct. 1 election in Quebec.

“I think talks could go on into October. Like the World Series, there are still innings to be played and [we should] expect surprises,” Robertson said.

Quebec is Canada’s largest dairy-producing province, accounting for nearly half of the country’s farms and about 37 percent of its milk productionIn addition to the upcoming vote for the Quebec National Assembly, the French-Canadian province will also be a prime battleground in the next federal election, which many expect in October 2019.

To stay in power, the Liberals will have to pick up seats there to offset likely losses in Atlantic, where they currently hold all the seats, and perhaps in British Columbia because of a pipeline controversy, Robertson said.

A Canadian government spokesman did not directly say whether the elections are complicating the talks but told Morning Trade that “the federal government is in touch and consults regularly with provincial and territorial governments on the NAFTA negotiations. In fact, Prime Minister Trudeau held a call with provincial and territorial premiers just over a week ago to update them on progress.”

As for timing, Freeland knows a swift resolution is important, but Canada will take the time needed to get a good deal, an aide said.

Two industry officials — one American and the other Canadian — speaking on the condition they not be identified, doubted the fast-approaching Quebec election was having much impact on the negotiations. “Sure, the Quebec election adds another political angle to it here, but by no means is the political sensitivity new,” the Canadian industry aide said. “I don’t think the Quebec election is going to be holding back things in the ag context.”

Dairy plays both ways with the electorate, Robertson added. “While all Quebec parties fiercely defend supply management. Some producers favor the end of supply management as they think — and I think correctly — that Canadian cheese can be world busters and that we can be as competitive as New Zealand and Australia. Of course there will have to be adjustment assistance. But it is affordable, if costly in the short term, and there is no reason our dairy and poultry can’t be as successful as our beef pork grains and lentils. Mr. Trump may force us to do what we should do,” he said.

On Peter Boehm

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Retiring G7 sherpa explains what every new diplomat should know

Meanwhile, Graham Flack and Chantal Maheu have been tapped to fill Louise Levonian and Lori Sterling’s former positions at Employment and Social Development.
Peter Boehm says building mutual trust with political leaders takes time, but it happens by being frank, open, and collaborative. He retires on Sept. 28. The Hill Times photograph by Sam Garcia

Be nimble and learn the local language: these are two pieces of advice Canada’s G7 sherpa Peter Boehm hopes to pass along to new diplomats before he retires from a 37-year career in the foreign service on Sept. 28.

Getting out from behind a desk and experiencing the culture of a posting, including learning the local language, is one of the best ways to develop interpersonal relationships, he said, which is key to diplomacy.

Learning the language “gets you more into the [cultural] aspect,” he said, and counterparts “will appreciate what you’re saying because you’re making the effort to speak their language.”

He spoke the local language when he arrived at his five foreign postings, he said, as he’s spoken German since childhood—having been born in a city with German roots, Kitchener, Ont.—and picked up Spanish in high school, which was refined by three Latin American postings.

“I told our local staff, certainly in Havana at the start, that I would insist that they speak Spanish with me even though their English and French was good. I really wanted to learn Spanish,” he said. “If you immerse yourself and you try hard, then it works.”

Representing a government doesn’t mean you can’t do some outside-of-the-box activities, said Mr. Boehm, adding that it’s okay to take calculated risks and young people should be nimble. He’s always found the cultural and sports side of diplomacy interesting, he said, and so when he was posted as the Canadian ambassador to Germany between 2008 and 2012, he brought over the Canadian women’s soccer team to play against Germany.

“We only lost by one goal, which had Chancellor [Angela] Merkel, who was sitting near me, biting her nails, but it was great,” he said.

The constant change in diplomacy—both in the work and in the country in which one is posted—means the career is never boring, he said. His approachable nature has led those in the foreign affairs community, including former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson, to call him a “contemporary diplomat” because he combines old-world techniques with new technology, such as social media. Mr. Boehm has a very good grasp of detail and his implementation skills have allowed him to deliver final products effectively, said Mr. Robertson.

Mr. Boehm started his career in 1981 as a foreign service officer, and held various positions with both the foreign and trade ministries (which were separate at the time) until 1997 when he was made the Canadian ambassador to the Organization of American States in Washington.

In 2001, he became the minister of political and public affairs at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C., making him the third in command during the 9/11 terrorist attacks. That day was significant in his career, he said, because his work changed completely but also “it was about the world changing” and becoming more security-minded.

In 2006, he helped evacuate 15,000 Canadians from war-torn Lebanon, and as deputy minister of international development from March 2016 until July 2017, he helped develop the Trudeau government’s Feminist International Assistance Policy.

Of course, Mr. Boehm ended his already impressive career with a bang, heading the planning of the most recent G7 summit in Charlevoix, Que. The drama between United States PresidentDonald Trump and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Papineau, Que.) might have grabbed headlines (Mr. Trump called Mr. Trudeau “meek and mild, and “dishonest and weak”) but Mr. Boehm said he’s proud of the substantial commitments agreed upon by member countries.

“On the girls’ education piece … we were hoping to get $1.3-billion together, we achieved $3.8-billion,” he said. “Being there, it was tiring because negotiations…went through several nights, so a few sleepless nights, but that’s kind of normal for the G7.”

His position was elevated to a deputy-minister level by Mr. Trudeau when he was appointed in July 2017. The move was recommended by an auditor general’s report about the 2010 Muskoka summit, said Mr. Boehm. It makes sense when Canada is hosting, as it allows all aspects of the summit to be housed under one roof with one accountability officer.

Since the summit, he’s been winding down to retirement, he said, but even after Sept. 28, he plans to stay engaged on foreign policy issues, as well as mental health policy. Mr. Boehm has long championed the cause, being on Privy Council clerk Michael Wernick’s mental health advisory committee, and it hits close to home, as Mr. Boehm has a son who is autistic.

“A lot more attention is being put on mental health, and destigmatizing it, and certainly in the workplace,” he said, and he wants to stay involved.

Paul Moen, an Earnscliffe Strategy Group principal who worked with Mr. Boehm when he was a Liberal political staffer, said Mr. Boehm has gained influence in Canadian foreign policy because he “listens as much as he talks” and knows when to push and pull at the right moments.

“He’s able to gracefully navigate that boundary between policy and politics, while maintaining his objectivity and serving governments of different political stripes,” he said.

Mr. Boehm did make headlines, however, for perhaps straying a little too far into the political realm when said the previous Conservative government “suppressed” diplomats’ work during its decade in power. He was speaking during a panel discussion in Ottawa hosted by the United Nations Association of Canada earlier this year before the Charlevoix summit.

Of the idea that he’s politically savvy, Mr. Boehm said it’s learned through observing and “willing to be curious” as well as developing a network both within diplomatic and political circles. A strong network comes into play when important decisions need to be made in a tight timeframe, he said, such as during the 2006 Lebanon evacuations.

Mutual trust allows one to give fearless policy advice and implement a government’s decisions loyally, he said, and comes by being frank, open, and collaborative. One also can’t have too thin of skin because the advice might be rejected, he said, but “that’s the beauty of democracy.”

Not getting caught up in bureaucratic processes is also key, he said.

Boehm’s replacement named in DM shuffle

Mr. Trudeau announced David Morrison as Mr. Boehm’s replacement in a press release on Sept. 21. Starting in October, Mr. Morrison will retain his title of associate deputy minister of foreign affairs, but will add G7 sherpa.

Mr. Morrison was appointed the associate deputy minister in October 2017, and was previously the assistant deputy minister for the Americas. He started with the department in 1989 as a foreign service officer, working in Havana, Cuba.

DM Peter Boehm earns colleagues’ respect as mentor, mental health advocate

By Chelsea Nash      
Leading the government’s foreign aid portfolio, the new DM has worked his way up his department over 30 years in the public service.
Peter Boehm, a longtime foreign service officer recently made deputy minister of international development, in front of a Neil Young poster hanging in his office at Global Affairs last week. The Hill Times photograph by Chelsea Nash

When I emailed Peter Boehm, the new deputy minister for international development, for an interview, he responded almost immediately. He’d be happy to speak with me, either over the phone or to meet me in person at his office. It was a pleasant surprise: high-level government officials such as Mr. Boehm are rarely so accessible and generous with their valuable time.

As Janice Stein, a friend of Mr. Boehm’s and founding director of the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto said, “When people become deputy minister, every five minutes counts.” She herself has not spoken to him since he assumed his new role, as acting deputy minister in November, and as confirmed deputy minister in March.

But open and approachable are exactly the words former colleagues and friends use to describe the career diplomat. He’s the “quintessential diplomat,” says former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson, and “uniformly highly regarded,” says Tim Hodges, former head of the Canadian diplomats union Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers, and a friend and colleague to Mr. Boehm.

He has a large presence. A tall man, he stands out in any crowd, but he also has the sometimes-intimidating aura of someone whose approval needs to be earned. “Professional, curious, well-read, well-travelled, and deliberative in his judgments,” is how Mr. Robertson described him in an email.

He has a dry sense of humour, and is quite soft-spoken, though he doesn’t hold back while answering questions.

Mr. Hodges, who worked directly under Mr. Boehm at Canada’s embassy in Washington, D.C., and regards him as a mentor, said as much. Mr. Boehm was minister in charge of political and public affairs there from 2001 to 2004.

“He’s a tough brief, in the sense that he will read what you send him, and he will digest it, and you had better be up to speed when you get back to have a discussion about what you’ve written,” he said. A demanding boss, but in a good way, said Mr. Hodges, because he doesn’t simply ask for the best, but demonstrates it. Above all else, he is a leader, he said.

“He’s been my mentor, whether he knew it or not, for many years. I think he’s been a mentor for many other people…He not only cares about people, but he cares about people moving up through the system. That is usually voluntary; it’s not required for the job. It usually is after-hours, or find time at lunch time to have a sandwich with someone and talk about a problem,” he said, speaking of the extra effort that Mr. Boehm has given the department over the years.

The DM has been with the department since he first joined as a foreign service officer more than 30 years ago. He is the only deputy minister in the department to bring first-hand experience within the foreign service—18 years worth, in fact—to the position.

Born in Kitchener, Ont., he grew up speaking German and English, and received a bachelor of arts in English and history from Wilfrid Laurier University in the region in 1977, according to biographies of him by his alma mater and his department.

His time at Carleton University’s Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, where he earned his master of arts in 1978, first sparked his interest in the foreign service. He applied then, but never heard back. So instead, he went to the University of Edinburgh on a scholarship, where he completed his PhD in history. At the time, teaching seemed to be the natural course of action for him, however, he wasn’t having much luck with his applications. He decided to try the foreign service again. This time, he heard back.

Next thing he knew, he was on his first posting in Havana, Cuba. He hopped after that to places including Germany as ambassador  from 2008 to 2012, and San José, Costa Rica. He’s also been ambassador and permanent representative to the Organization of American States from 1997 to 2001, and from 2005 to 2008, he was the senior official responsible for the North American leaders’ summits. Along the way, he’s earned the Public Service of Canada Outstanding Achievement Award and the Canadian Foreign Service Officer Award for his help toward achieving peace in Central America.

“It’s fair to say he’s a very results-oriented person, and he wants to deliver. He’s focused always on: what’s this going to deliver? How are we going to execute this? I think that’s a very good combination, to be open at the front end and focused at the back end,” said Ms. Stein.

Aid program review wrapping up

Interestingly enough, “open at the front end and focused at the back end” seems to mirror the format of the international development review the department is in the process of wrapping up. Public submissions on the future of Canada’s foreign aid program stopped being accepted at the end of July, and Mr. Boehm said they are in a period of “internal assessment, and trying to see what are the policy thrusts we are going to suggest to the minister.”

It was the first review of its kind the department has done, he said. Both in terms of the technology used to conduct the review—the department had a portal on its website to accept input—as well as the format of the review itself: the department accepted thousands of submissions from “really anyone in the world.”

Mr. Boehm said “a number of trends are already emerging,” including a focus on women and girls, and their rights and empowerment. Education and climate change are also important themes, he said.

“It’s a very exciting moment because there’s never been a consultation that has been undertaken in this way in our history,” he said, “in terms of really trying to get the most input from as many actors as we can, and trying to come out with a policy that is very 21st century, that is very forward-leaning, and can serve as an example for other countries.”

He said in his capacity as G7 sherpa—representative of the prime minister to the G7 summit—he has also been consulting with his counterparts from other countries for the development review, and talking to them about their challenges and successes.

“There is an exponential need for humanitarian assistance. The needs are high, but we also have traditional development. There’s a squeeze there in terms of how we use the budget, the dollars, to greatest effect. That also suggests looking at new and creative ways of programming and addressing these challenges,” he said.

Mental health advocate

Mr. Boehm also has a reputation for advocating for mental health initiatives, and has made great strides within the department to provide a support structure for foreign service officers.

Ms. Stein said mental health “was an important issue for him long before it became an important issue for many people…He does it in a very quiet, but very persistent, way—which again, reflects who he is.”

Mr. Boehm attributes his determination to advance mental health initiatives and to reduce stigma to his own experience. One of Mr. Boehm’s sons, who was born abroad, is autistic.

“Just travelling with him, and making sure he gets the supports he needs was probably the greatest challenge of my life,” he said. “I’ve been pushing it and I’ve blogged about it internally in terms of my own experience. And if I can talk about it, and write about it, then why can’t others?”

He is the father of three other children as well, ranging in age from 12 to 33. They are all over the globe, from Vancouver to Budapest, doing “different things.” None want to follow directly in his footsteps, he said, though they all seem to have caught his interest in international affairs.

“My 12-year-old, I have a plan for her,” he said with a coy smile. “Prime minister.”

The 62-year-old was reluctant to admit his age, saying he doesn’t think like he’s 62. That’s what his 12-year-old daughter tells him, anyways. And, having only been in his current position since November 2015, Mr. Boehm said retirement is not on his horizon anytime soon.

“Oh I’m not gone yet,” he said. “I’d like to stay involved in international issues. I think I have contributions to make.”

NAFTA: What Next?

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Despite Trump’s threats, it won’t be easy to cut Canada out of NAFTA, experts say

OTTAWA—U.S. President Donald Trump’s threat to leave Canada out of a new NAFTA deal heightened tensions and capped an already dramatic week of negotiations, but some experts say the threat isn’t quite as direct as it seems.

On Saturday, Trump threatened to go it alone with Mexico on a revised agreement or to terminate NAFTA entirely.One U.S. trade lawyer said the “real test” of President Donald Trump’s trade policy lies with his base of support, who may not back any attempt to cut Canada out of a revised NAFTA.

“There is no political necessity to keep Canada in the new NAFTA deal,” he tweeted, while on his way to play golf. “If we don’t make a fair deal for the U.S. after decades of abuse, Canada will be out. Congress should not interfere w/ these negotiations or I will simply terminate NAFTA entirely & we will be far better off.”

Read more:

Donald Trump threatens to terminate NAFTA if Congress stands up for Canada

Donald Trump confirms Star story on his secret bombshell remarks about Canada

Deal, or no deal, NAFTA uncertainty means consumers lose out, say experts

With memories fresh from U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum, Canadian officials are mindful that Trump’s threats aren’t all bluster.

But experts say it won’t be quite that easy to cut Canada out of a revised North American Free Trade Agreement.

For starters, Congress has a critical say on trade agreements, noted Toronto-based international trade lawyer Lawrence Herman.

“Trump has no authority from Congress to end NAFTA and do a bilateral deal with Mexico as he threatens. I suspect lots of political pushback and, importantly, legal challenges to any such attempt,” Herman said on Twitter.

U.S. trade lawyer Dan Ujczo said he doesn’t see a procedural barrier to going forward with Mexico alone, but he does think political considerations would scuttle such a move.

“The issue is whether Congress will stand up to the president,” Ujczo said in an interview Sunday. “It’s a political question, not a procedural question. At the end of the day, it will be up to Congress to decide whether we can proceed with a bilateral deal as opposed to a trilateral.”

Aside from the procedural questions, including a six-month notice requirement, Trump would also certainly face a backlash from members of Congress, state governors and U.S. business leaders whose constituencies and companies would pay an economic price if Canada — America’s largest goods export market in 2017 — were left out.

Even before trade negotiations got underway, Ottawa had begun a concerted strategy to reach out to U.S. stakeholders to drive home the benefits of Canada-U.S. trade and what it meant economically to their individual districts.

That’s helped build valuable allies.

On Friday, Thomas J. Donohue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, issued a statement stressing that a revised NAFTA must include all three countries.

“NAFTA’s many strengths rest on the fact that it ties together three economically vibrant nations, drawing upon each of our strengths to boost the competitiveness of the whole. If you break off one member of this agreement, you break it all, and that would be bad news for U.S. businesses, for American jobs, and for economic growth,” Donohue said.

He warned that unless the new deal is a trilateral one, it won’t get congressional backing or the support of the business community.

In the view of the Canadians, this gives them leverage at the bargaining table, an assessment backed by Ujczo.

“Right now, the U.S. has the negotiating leverage in the negotiating room but Canada has the leverage in terms of Congress, the business community and the general U.S. public, but that balance will not last forever,” Ujczo said.

Ujczo said the “real test” of the president’s trade policy lies not with Trump but rather with his base of support.

“I think the real question is where is Trump’s base on Canada,” he said.

“I can say as someone who lives in Ohio, I don’t think for the time being there’s a great deal of support to proceed with a deal absent Canada,” he said.

But he cautioned that the issues that appear to be sticking points in Canada-U.S. discussions — Canada’s supply management system, dispute settlement and cultural protections — aren’t likely to find many defenders south of the border.

In the meantime, while Trump continues to churn the waters, Ujczo notes that these threats and “theatrics” are part of his negotiating tactics.

“Don’t underestimate the strategy of good cop, not-so-good cop and bad cop,” he said. “Others can decide who falls into what category.”

It’s all part of the president’s no-compromise bargaining style, as he bluntly stated in private comments revealed by the Star’s Daniel Dale on Friday.

In an off-the-record conversation with Bloomberg journalists, leaked to Dale by a source, Trump said that any deal with Canada would be “totally on our terms.”

Trump grumbled about Canada on social media on Saturday, reprising views that the northern neighbour had been taking advantage of the U.S. “for many years” and that NAFTA was one of the “worst trade deals ever” that cost the U.S. “thousands of businesses and millions of jobs.

“We were far better off before NAFTA — should never have been signed … We make new deal or go back to pre-NAFTA!” Trump said on Twitter.

Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland speaks during a news conference at the Canadian Embassy after talks at the Office of the United States Trade Representative, in Washington, Friday, Aug. 31. Freeland told the press that NAFTA negotiations are “making progress,” but aren’t “there yet.” Freeland added that a “win-win-win agreement is within reach.”

Trump’s comments ignore data that shows U.S. exports in goods and services have soared since NAFTA was signed. The U.S. Trade Representative’s Office says that U.S. exports to Canada are up 181 per cent from 1993 and U.S. exports of services to Canada are up from pre-NAFTA levels by some 243 per cent.

For now, the Canadians are insisting they won’t be rattled by Trump’s Saturday warning that Canada could be left out of a revised North American Free Trade Agreement.

And as they prepare to resume negotiations Wednesday, they say they are optimistic. Driving that optimism was agreement on auto content that would favour Canada and the United States because of their higher-wage workers, making it less appealing for manufacturers to move production to Mexico. While that was part of the preliminary deal reached by Mexico and the U.S., it follows on proposals made by Canada earlier in the talks.

“If implemented it would be very progressive for Canadian workers and Canadian labour. It was important for the United States and Mexico to get that work done,” said one official familiar with the discussions.

“We continue to work, we continue to talk, we continue to make progress. But for the government of Canada to sign an agreement, it needs to be in the best interests of Canada and Canadians,” the official said.

At this key time, Canada cannot let up on its targeted cultivation of U.S. contacts, former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson said, in order to keep pressure on the White House not to leave Canada by the wayside.

“Keep calm and carry on with our current strategy of working Congress and the states, especially governors, and reminding U.S. business that we matter to each other,” said Robertson, a vice-president and fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

Given Trump’s sharp-elbowed trade tactics, that strategy will remain in place going forward, Robertson said, to protect Canada’s interests.

“Normally we use the president/administration as a shield against a protectionist Congress. Now we are using Congress and the states, especially governors, as a shield against a mercantilist president,” Robertson said in an email exchange with the Star.

“I think it will oblige us to make a strategic shift in our long-term advocacy in the U.S.A.,” he said.

Others caution that Trump’s tactics have badly damaged Canada-U.S. relations.

The president’s treatment of Canada through this process is the “definition of insanity,” Bruce Heyman, the former U.S. ambassador to Canada, told CNBC’s Squawk on the Streeton Sunday.

“The U.S. has all the leverage in the world, but just because you can doesn’t mean you should. When you take your best friend, your greatest ally in the world and start squeezing them, you can win but I will tell you, the relationship will be damaged much longer than it will take the ink to dry on a new NAFTA deal,” Heyman said.

John McCain: A friend to Canada

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Canada had a friend in John McCain


Senator McCain was a warrior and he understand the values of collective security. He was also a democrat and indeed championed the idea of a league of democracies sustained by a military alliance.
Location is everything in Washington. Canada’s splendid Arthur Erickson-designed embassy on Pennsylvania Avenue, just across from the National Gallery of Art, is at the start of the presidential inaugural parade that is held every four years. The embassy’s sixth-floor balcony overlooks the Capitol building. Its superb view down Pennsylvania Avenue makes it a prize site for schmoozing while keeping an eye on the parade.

Our invitation to members of the new Congress, incoming administration and the movers and shakers of Washington is always a draw. For the second George W. Bush inaugural parade on January 20, 2005, we welcomed former Speaker Newt Gingrich and incoming West Virginia governor (and now Senator) Joe Manchin . But our prize catch was Arizona Senator John McCain who came along with one of his daughters, who lived in Toronto.

The Senator made straight for the balcony. He was not there for any ‘networking’. He had come to watch the parade.

It was a cold January – mitts, scarf and toque weather. The Senator positioned himself against the balcony and stayed put, long after everyone else had gone in for something warming. I stood beside him and tried to engage him on some of our issues – softwood lumber and beef. He grunted acknowledgement, his eyes on the marching bands.

“I marched myself as a midshipman at Annapolis in the second Eisenhower inaugural… it was another cold day.”

For the next hour, he did colour commentary, displaying an encyclopaedic, opinionated knowledge of the various marching bands, punctuated with his trademark wit and pungent humour. His daughter came out at one point and fastened a scarf around him but he stood bare-headed and with his hands in his dark wool coat.

‘Dad, it’s really cold out here…come in.’

‘No thanks…I’ve been in colder places than this.’

It was another insight into this doughty American hero.

I first met Senator McCain when I served as Canadian Consul General for the southwestern USA. Arizona was part of the territory and the senior Senator from Arizona’s office was supportive of our efforts to create the Canada-Arizona Business Council. The CABC set about increasing by tenfold the number of direct flights between Arizona and Canada. It was eventually realized thanks to CABC efforts, especially those of CEO Glenn Williamson, now our Honorary Consul in Phoenix.

When I was assigned next to establish the new Advocacy Secretariat at our Embassy in Washington, Senator McCain was an obvious target for our outreach efforts. He had served in Congress since 1983 and run well as the maverick ‘Straight Talk Express’ against George W. Bush for the GOP nomination in 2000. In 2008 he would be the GOP presidential nominee.

Senator McCain’s Washington staff was as efficient as those in Arizona. Perhaps not surprisingly, given his similarities to Teddy Roosevelt, we found that he was an environmentalist and his staff gave us useful advice on the somewhat obscure, but important, Devils Lake environmental issue. Run-off from Devils Lake in North Dakota was running into the Red River that flows north into Manitoba. We wanted the Army Corps of Engineers to put in a filtration system. Senator McCain, who early on recognized the dangers of climate change, helped us. He also traveled, with Hillary Clinton, across the north of Canada to Churchill to assess the changes wrought by global warming.

Senator McCain was a warrior and he understand the values of collective security. He was also a democrat and indeed championed the idea of a league of democracies sustained by a military alliance. One of the most successful initiatives of the Harper government that the Trudeau government has wisely continued to support is the Halifax International Security Forum, a three-day world-class security forum for the democracies. Set up under the direction of then Defence Minister Peter MacKay it has succeeded under the tireless direction of its CEO, Peter van Praagh.

Critical to the HISF success is the congressional delegation that flies up from Washington each November. John McCain was a driving spirit behind the American presence. Not only did he attend every year, he personally cajoled and convinced his colleagues, Republican and Democrat, to come with him. This congressional presence, often more than come to Canada in an entire year, ensured high-level participation from ministers and flag-rank officers both trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific.

In what was his last appearance, weeks after the election of Donald Trump in November 2016, Senator McCain was unequivocal in his support for NATO, as well as the NAFTA. They needed to be preserved and strengthened. And when it came to conduct in war, he was equally forceful telling us “I don’t give a damn what the president (elect) wants to do…we will not waterboard. We will not torture people.”

Yes, Senator McCain is an American hero. He was also a friend to Canada.

The Final Round NAFTA?

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A little more than a year after negotiations began on a revised North American free-trade agreement, a deal looks possible, although big questions remain.

For much of the past two months, Mexican and American negotiators have wrestled with the U.S. demand around the content rules for our most-traded commodity, the automobile. North Americans produce 17.5 million cars or trucks annually. The original U.S. demand of 85 per cent North American content with 50 per cent of that “Made in the USA” has apparently morphed into 75 per cent North American content with 40 per cent to 45 per cent made by workers making US$16 or more a hour.

The devil is always in the details, but Canadian industry and its workers can live with this and, if this gives U.S. President Donald Trump his “win,” then we are on our way to a deal.

So, too, with the “sunset” clause. Originally, the United States wanted the new agreement to lapse after five years – something investors said would freeze investment, especially into Canada and Mexico. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer reportedly says it will now be 16 years with a review after six years. We can live with that.

On dispute settlement, or Chapter 19, the picture is murky and we will need clarification. The Trump team originally wanted to jettison the binational mechanism, and it appears there will be investor-state provisions, something U.S. industry lobbied hard to retain, and some form of recourse, beyond the U.S. system, for energy and infrastructure. Canada and Mexico need to stand firm. We need recourse from U.S. trade-remedy legislation – countervail, anti-dump and, as the Trump administration misapplies it, national security.

If reports are accurate, there appears to be near-agreement on agriculture (good for Canadian farmers) and on intellectual property (unchanged) but again, the devil will be in the details.

The negotiators were originally aiming for 30-plus chapters of NAFTA but until now only nine had been closed and, of course, nothing is truly closed until it is all done.

So what remains and how might they be resolved? From Canada’s perspective, assuming we can work out dispute settlement, we need to see action on three more items.

  • Government procurement: Canada wants to retain open access, but the United States is offering a derisory dollar-for-dollar deal. If we cannot work this out, we should leave it to governors and premiers to work out the kind of reciprocal procurement deal that they achieved in 2010. This could be regional or national; the incentive for both sides is that an outside bidder curbs local price-fixing. This will be important especially if Mr. Trump proceeds with his trillion-dollar “Big Build” infrastructure initiative.
  • Labour mobility: We want to update for the digital age the ease of passage for designated occupations. Businesses, especially those with North American supply chains, need this to maintain competitiveness. In the current U.S. environment, this is probably a stretch. We would do well if we can maintain the current list and punt this over to a separate negotiation.
  • Dairy access: Mr. Trump continues to single this out. It is time to reform supply management just as we did with our wine industry through the original Canada-U.S. free-trade agreement in 1987 and then our managed trade in grain. Provide adjustment assistance but open up our dairy and poultry industries, which make good products and, like our beef and pork sectors, and now our grains and pulse production, they can be world-beaters.

While Mr. Trump thinks negotiations can wrap up this week, we will likely see fall leaves and probably snow before the deal is done. Legislative ratification, especially in the United States, is an even bigger question mark. It will likely be the next Congress, chosen in November and taking office in January, that will give “up or down” approval to the new accord. It won’t be easy.

The coming days – more likely weeks – will be a test of Canadian negotiators. They are a very experienced team and they are up to the task as long as the government has their backs.

This is the bigger question: Can the Trudeau government take the political flak that will inevitably come its way? It won’t be sunny ways. If it can stick it out, the Trudeau government will make as big a contribution to Canadian well being and competitiveness as Brian Mulroney and his Progressive Conservative government did with the original Canada-U.S. FTA and then the NAFTA. It would be no small legacy.

Grading NAFTA: A year on

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While some progress has been made, a deal still hasn’t been reached. Autos and the U.S. demand for a sunset clause have been key sticking points. Meanwhile, Canada has become one of Donald Trump’s main targets in recent weeks with the U.S. president threatening more tariffs on Canadian car imports if a deal isn’t struck.

Below, four experts weigh in on Canada’s progress in the talks so far and offer their view on what needs to happen next.


What’s ahead for NAFTA as U.S. and Mexico meet again without Canada

Colin Robertson, VP and fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and member of the team that negotiated the original NAFTA deal, joins BNN Bloomberg to provide perspective on what’s ahead in NAFTA 2.0 negotiations, as the U.S. and Mexico meet.


Grade: A, for exhibiting Hemingway’s definition of courage: “grace under pressure”

What has been the biggest hurdle for Canada so far?

“Donald Trump. Does he want a NAFTA or not?  Is the administration prepared to negotiate on the remaining critical issues: dispute settlement (chapters 11, 19, 20) and government procurement?”

What has been Canada’s biggest success?

“We are still in negotiation and the Canada-Mexico partnership remains solid.”

What has been the biggest disappointment?

“U.S. intransigence and the sense that their negotiating team is awaiting instructions on their mandate and scope for negotiation.”

What is the most important thing Canada needs to do going forward?

“Keep negotiating and trying to make progress on the issues. Keep in mind the average negotiation for a deal of this size even renegotiated is three-to-five years. We are actually making reasonable progress given the complexities involved. Granted, a lot of what is being negotiated was already negotiated by the U.S., Canada and Mexico in the TPP and many of the negotiators are the same. So there is familiarity with the issues and one another.”

What has been the biggest surprise throughout the negotiations?  

“Donald Trump’s personal involvement. He has so much policy ground to choose from but he has made NAFTA a personal interest as we have learned to our surprise and disappointment in his tweets.”


Ottawa mulling steel safeguards: Is this a wise move?

Maryscott Greenwood, CEO of the Canadian American Business Council, joins BNN Bloomberg to discuss Ottawa’s decision to launch consultations with the aim of protecting Canada’s steel industry, and what’s ahead for NAFTA.


Grade: I for incomplete

What has been the biggest hurdle for Canada so far?

“I would say the unpredictability of the U.S.”

What has been Canada’s biggest success?

“Raising awareness in the U.S. and Canada of the importance of our economic relationship.”

What has been the biggest disappointment?

“Not getting a deal done yet.”

What is the most important thing Canada needs to do going forward?

“Canada needs to come to the table with practical deals in mind. Focus on the practicality as opposed to the principle.”

What has been the biggest surprise throughout the negotiations?  

“The fact that [Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador], the new president of Mexico, has been eager to conclude a modernized NAFTA before he takes office on Dec. 1.”


Trump’s focus on tariffs still truly remain China: Trade expert

Christopher Sands, director of the Center for Canadian Studies at Johns Hopkins University, joins BNN Bloomberg’s Catherine Murray for a look at the growing ripple effects from Trump’s tariffs.


Grade: C

What has been the biggest hurdle for Canada so far?

“Overcoming an initial impression (given by President Trump) that the renegotiation of NAFTA would involve only ‘tweaks’ with regard to Canada-U.S. trade arrangements. This led Canada to play it safe with a defensive strategy that was hard to abandon when the gravity of the talks became more apparent (lots of clues are visible in retrospect).”

What has been Canada’s biggest success?

“Mobilizing an impressive outreach to the Congress, state governors and legislators on the benefits to the United States of trade with Canada … Combined with a thoughtful outreach to the Trump administration, including White House staff and cabinet departments, the Canadian effort was more extensive that any that a foreign country has ever mounted in the United States.”

What has been the biggest disappointment?

“It would be a tie for me. First, the failure of the impressive Canadian outreach to garner a single concession from the United States – not on softwood lumber, not on gypsum – which was then followed by the self-destructive Canadian attack on U.S. trade remedy practices now pending before the World Trade Organization, a clear sign of Canadian frustration.

“Second, the business community in both Canada and the United States has been far less effective at defending the integrated continental supply chains that link the three NAFTA economies. Why? I still don’t really know.”

What is the most important thing Canada needs to do going forward?

“Heal the breach with the Trump White House.”

What has been the biggest surprise throughout the negotiations? 

“Almost all of the things I have mentioned above surprised me, but the suspension of the NAFTA talks in June followed by their resumption on a bilateral basis by the U.S. and Mexico was the biggest surprise.”


Trump playing ‘old-fashioned leverage’ with Canada freeze-out: Trade lawyer

Mark Warner, principal at MAAW Law, joins BNN Bloomberg to provide perspective on Trump’s latest tweet on NAFTA, in which he essentially says he’s freezing Canada out of talks.


Grade: A+ for effort in engaging with key stakeholders, B+ overall

What has been the biggest hurdle for Canada so far?

“The biggest hurdle for Canada in the NAFTA negotiations so far has been in grappling with the scope of the Trump administration’s demands to roll back some of the perceived gains from NAFTA in the area of dispute settlement (and demand for a sunset clause) and to deal with traditional U.S. demands for concessions in areas like supply management for the price of maintaining NAFTA rather than for new U.S. concessions.”

What has been Canada’s biggest success?

“The biggest success for Canada has been to keep drawing out the negotiations without Trump triggering a notice of withdrawal to Canada and Mexico. That said, the price of doing so has been increased investment uncertainty and the strategy has led Trump to seek other opportunities for leverage in the negotiations outside NAFTA, most notably in Canada’s inclusion in the Section 232 national security tariffs on steel and aluminum and threatened ones on autos.”

What has been the biggest disappointment?

“The biggest disappointment is that Canada has adopted a passive, defensive approach to the NAFTA renegotiation with engagement mostly with U.S. stakeholders rather than proactively engaging stakeholders in Canada for self-interested policy or market access concessions that could be offered up to move Canada out of Trump’s attention (e.g. supply management).”

What is the most important thing Canada needs to do going forward?

“The most important thing Canada needs to do right now is to find something to offer in the NAFTA negotiations to avoid Trump imposing Section 232 national security tariffs on exports of autos and auto parts from Canada. And to end the spiral of ‘tit for tat’ tariff retaliation, which is a game that ultimately Canada cannot win because of the asymmetries in the size of the two economies and relative importance of bilateral trade to each country.”

What has been the biggest surprise throughout the negotiations?  

“The biggest surprise to me is that Canada and Mexico have managed to hang together, at least publicly, until recently, although I wonder whether the time horizons of the newly-elected Mexican president and the Canadian prime minister approaching his re-election year will stay aligned if the NAFTA negotiations continue.”

Saudi-Canada and the USA

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Who would have imagined that a tweet could have sparked such a crisis in Saudi-Canada relations? In this still-developing saga, there is a lesson, questions and a challenge.

The lesson is obvious: Diplomacy by tweet is a bad idea.

The too-clever-by-half tweet on the Friday before the August long weekend was likely written to assuage constituent pressures – the Montreal family of the imprisoned Badawis. But was it given sufficient scrutiny by our professional diplomatic corps?

The tweet would have been fine had it been sent by Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch. Diplomacy needs nuance and circumspection to effect actual change. While a useful social-media tool for priming an event or announcement, 280 characters are insufficient for launching a human-rights initiative to transform Saudi conduct.

The questions: Did Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi Crown Prince calling the shots in the desert kingdom, check with U.S. President Donald Trump before proceeding with his attack on Canada? Given their close personal relationship – Mr. Trump’s first foreign visit was to Riyadh – was there a conversation before the Saudis launched the diplomatic equivalent of DEFCON 3 on the United States’ closest ally? If so, what was said?

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau needs to call Mr. Trump to discuss the Saudi situation. If it turns out that Mr. Trump gave the Crown Prince a wink and a nod to proceed, then Mr. Trudeau needs to make it clear that this is not acceptable.

The challenge for Canada is what to do next.

The Saudis are ratcheting up their campaign. Their social media have called Canada an oppressor of women and the homeless. The tweeted picture of an Air Canada jet headed for the CN Tower – shades of the Twin Towers – was reprehensible. The Saudis are also calling in their chits. The Arab League, Organization of Islamic Co-operation and the Gulf Co-operation Council have all dutifully lined up behind Saudi Arabia. The Saudi Arab News says Mr. Trudeau should send a delegation on “the first plane” to make amends or there is a “real risk of upsetting the entire Muslim and Arab worlds.”

The Washington Post editorialized (with an Arabic version) that the extreme nature of the Saudi punitive actions requires solidarity from like-minded countries who see human rights as a fundamental value.

The response to date from our Group of Seven partners is disappointing. The U.S. State Department suggested the two countries – “both close allies of the USA” – work it out, as though Canada and Saudi Arabia were on equal footing. Susan Rice, who served as president Barack Obama’s UN Ambassador and then National Security Adviser, got it right: ”the administration left Canada swinging in the wind.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland now has to manage the fallout and continue her efforts to persuade like-minded countries to take a principled stand.

Are there sanctions we and our allies should be taking against the Saudis for their human-rights abuses, including treatment of women, oppression of religious freedoms and their intervention in Yemen? And why not invite its Foreign Minister to Canada? Perhaps he could join Ms. Freeland for a walk through our splendid Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg.

Ms. Freeland has given some good, punchy speeches defending the rules-based order recently, in Washington and in Singapore. Words matter. On her next trip to Europe, she should speak about human rights and remind our allies that they are fundamental to civil society. Mr. Trudeau should make human rights a principal theme of his UN General Assembly speech in September.

It is doubtful the Trudeau government intended to launch a new initiative targeting Saudi human rights. It already has a charged foreign-policy agenda – tense NAFTA negotiations, NATO commitments, climate talks, G7 chair obligations, peace operations in Mali and now refugee claimants from the United States. But Saudi bully-boy tactics shouldn’t give the kingdom a free pass on human rights.

As we have learned through our initiatives to help the Rohingya in Myanmar and to constrain the Maduro regime in Venezuela, advancing human rights in countries that don’t care is a difficult proposition. But if a feminist foreign policy and advocacy for human rights is to mean anything, we have to stand up, even if we stand alone.

US refuses to back Canada in Saudi Arabia dispute

As the diplomatic feud between Canada and Saudi Arabia worsens, the United States has remained notably silent, leaving Ottawa both perplexed and frustrated.

It all began last week with a tweet from Canada’s foreign minister criticising Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.

That unleashed a barrage of punitive measures from Saudi Arabia including expelling Canada’s Ambassador, recalling its own Ambassador from Ottawa, freezing business and trade ties and ordering home thousands of Saudi students studying in Canada.

The US State Department has urged the two sides to use diplomacy to resolve the dispute but President Donald Trump’s silence for its northern neighbour hasn’t gone unnoticed in Canada.